Governor Bill Lee presented his first State of the State / Budget Address to the General Assembly last week. In it, he outlined his proposals for the 2019-2020 budget year. The proposed budget continues Tennessee’s strong fiscal stewardship which has earned the state triple-A bond ratings with the nation’s top credit rating agencies and recognition as one of the best financially managed states in the U.S. It also makes key investments to promote job growth, improve education, expand rural opportunities, and enhance public safety. In addition, the Governor offered initiatives to modernize healthcare and make it more affordable.

Lawmakers went straight to work examining budget details. The Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee heard testimony from administration officials who gave a budget overview and answered numerous questions about the spending plan. Committee members expressed strong support for the Governor’s plan to add a record-breaking deposit to the Rainy Day Fund that will lift the state’s savings account to a historic high of $1.1 billion. The fund is critical in times of emergency or a downturn in the economy when tax collections are low and needs for state services are high.

The $38.6 billion budget represents a 1.1 percent growth and cuts $42.2 million in costs without compromising services. It also does not take on any long-term debt. The Senate’s nine standing committees have scheduled a combined 59 hearings to review individual budgets of all departments and agencies of state government over the next five weeks.

The full speech is available on Governor Lee’s website https://www.tn.gov/governor/about-bill-lee/state-of-the-state-2019-address.html and the proposed budget is available on the Department of Finance & Administration website https://www.tn.gov/finance.html.

Proposed budget prioritizes education improvements

GIVE Act expanding access to vocational and technical training advances through the Senate Education Committee

The centerpiece of Governor Lee’s 2019-2020 budget is funding for a series of proposals designed to improve education opportunities for Tennessee students, preparing them for the jobs of the future. This includes $25 million for the Governor’s Investment in Vocation Education (GIVE) Act, expanding access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students. The legislation authorizing the program was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week.

Senate Bill 805 is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. GIVE also provides funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs. Previously, high school students only had access to two fully-funded dual enrollment credits. With access to four credits, students will now be better prepared for entry into the workforce within two years of graduation.

Two grant programs will fund the initiative: GIVE Community Grants and GIVE Student Grants. Using the framework of the state’s Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP), the governor will recommend new funding to support work-based learning through GIVE Community Grants. These competitive grants will go to regional partnerships between TCATs, industry, and K-12 to build new programs in work-based learning and apprenticeships, market-driven dual-credit opportunities, and the expansion of industry-informed CTE offerings at local high schools.

GIVE Student Grants will be funded via the Tennessee Lottery and support expanded access to dual enrollment.

Thank you for reading this edition. Your concerns as a constituent are very important to me and I encourage you to contact me with them. I am honored to represent the following counties: Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, and Sevier. My office can be reached by phone at: (800) 449-8366, Ext: 13851 or by E-mail at: sen.steve.southerland@capitol.tn.gov. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for the honor to serve you in state government and God bless!

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